Everything Must Change

Like it or not, everything MUST change, including SAP’s analytics roadmap.

You’ve probably never heard of Benard Ighner. But in 1974 he penned a song entitled “Everything Must Change” which he performed on the Quincy Jones album Body Heat. Since then, the song has been widely covered by artists in the pop, jazz and R&B genres.

Everyone must change
Nothing stays the same.
The young become the old,
Mysteries do unfold.
‘Cause that’s the way of time
Nothing and no one goes unchanged.

Everything Must Change by Benard Ighner

Last month, SAP analytics executive Mike Flannagan published a February 7, 2018 blog that was a prelude to a February 15, 2018 #askSAP webinar. His blog was entitled A Deeper Look into SAP’s BI and Analytics Strategy and made two key points, one intentional and one not.

First, the intentional message was that SAP is focusing on one data discovery solution, SAP Analytics Cloud. This means that SAP Lumira Discovery- freshly released in 2017 after an extensive and lengthy redesign- will only see small maintenance releases during 2018 and 2019 while SAP Analytics Cloud will continue to be updated every two weeks. Many SAP analytics customers will be unaffected by this announcement, as they have settled on a best-in-breed analytics strategy with Tableau, Qlik, or Microsoft PowerBI as their tool of choice. There will be some disgruntled customers who bought into SAP Lumira, which does not have an automatic migration path to SAP Analytics Cloud.

Second, the unintentional message in Mike Flannagan’s blog was that SAP Analytics Cloud is becoming the primary analytics offering by SAP. Oh sure, the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform is still supported, but the goal is to loosely integrate it with SAP Analytics Cloud via the SAP Analytics Hub, another SAP Cloud Platform-based offering. A red flag for SAP BusinessObjects on-premise customers is this- “SAP has recently extended support for SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform 4.2 by two years”. This “great news” means that End of Mainstream Maintenance for BI 4.2 now occurs on 12/31/2022 and End of Priority One Support Phase now occurs on 12/31/2024.

SAP is to be commended for its current strategy of continuous innovation via support packs, which will continue into 2018 with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 Support Pack 6 being released in the July 2018 time frame and Support Pack 7 being released in the December 2018 time frame. However, contrary to any “rumors” that you may have heard, there are no current plans for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.3. This is unfortunate, because there are significant innovations that need to come to the BI platform but won’t on a support pack budget. And according to SAP’s roadmap, the BI platform will become an innovation-free zone, as any cool and modern technology will only be added to SAP Analytics Cloud.

SAP’s new analytics strategy has significant impacts for its customers who love the on-premise (but also cloud-ready) BI platform. Its strategy even has significant impacts for analytics professionals such as myself who find themselves at a skills crossroads. The SAP BI platform isn’t quite dead (heck, Desktop Intelligence has been dead for years and many of you are still out there using it!), but it’s no longer a solid foundation for a career with analytics- SAP or otherwise. I’ll be exploring both of these angles in future blog posts.

Nothing and no one goes unchanged. But for now, enjoy a two-minute, heart-pounding arrangement of “Everything Must Change,” performed by the world-champion Blue Devils drum corps in their 2017 show, “Metamorph”.

Is your organization’s analytics strategy changing in response to SAP’s recent announcements? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Thoughts on the SAP Digital Boardroom

There are some compelling things about the SAP Digital Boardroom and I’ve shared some observations from recent partner training on the SAP Community Network.

Last month, I attended the SAP BusinessObjects Cloud Pre-Sales Workshop at SAP’s Vancouver, BC office (see related SCN article). Approximately two dozen pre-sales professionals from various North American partners received intensive training on how to use SAP BusinessObjects Cloud. We also received a tour of the SAP Digital Boardroom, which is built on SAP BusinessObjects Cloud (which in turn is built on the SAP HANA Cloud platform, or HCP).

There are some compelling things about the SAP Digital Boardroom and I’ve shared some observations from the partner training on the SAP Community Network.

Read Thoughts on the SAP Digital Boardroom on the SAP Community Network.

Celebrate the Small Stuff Along the Road to BI Maturity

Wherever your organization is on its business intelligence journey, I hope you’ll take the time to celebrate success whenever and wherever it happens.

My son recently finished kindergarten, his first year of public education. His mother and I were invited, along with the other parents, to a special end-of-year party to celebrate.

I learned from my son’s kindergarten teacher the importance of celebrating small steps of progress. There are lessons here for business intelligence teams and I’ve written some observations in the Business Intelligence Community on the SAP Community Network.

Wherever your organization is on its business intelligence journey, I hope you’ll take the time to celebrate success whenever and wherever it happens.

Read Celebrate the Small Stuff Along the Road to BI Maturity on the SAP Community Network.

The Business Intelligence Barista Promise

Love your business intelligence or let us know. We’ll always make it right.

The Starbucks Barista Promise, written on nearly every Starbucks cup, asks us to “Love your beverage or let us know. We’ll always make it right.”

StarbucksBaristaPromise500

 

What would happen if we put “Love your business intelligence or let us know. We’ll always make it right.” on our work?

My Opinion (and Yours) about Fact-Based Decisions

A single version of the truth that we can all disagree about.

Yesterday was election day in the United States. We elect our House of Representatives every two years. Senate terms are 6 years, so there’s only a handful of 100 seats up for grabs during any election cycle. There are basically two facts in the election outcome: Republicans extending their majority in the House with 243 seats and taking leadership in the Senate with 52 seats.

2014 US Election Results Washington Post
image courtesy The Washington Post

But there are a variety of opinions. Search through various media sources and you can find an analysis piece that meshes with your core beliefs. Liberal or conservative. Republican or Democrat. American or not. Fan of President Obama or otherwise. We’ve got you covered.

In the analytics industry, we’re frequently reminded by our tool vendors how awful it could be that users might show up to a meeting and argue over different sets of facts, especially with the current batch of “data discovery” tools that allow users to (gasp) analyze numbers that may not have come from the enterprise data warehouse. But an election is proof that you can have a single version of the truth- the vote counts- and still have an endless buffet of opinions about what the election results mean and what will or should happen next.

This phenomenon is not limited to politics. Perhaps your organization’s sales are up. Perhaps they’re not. Maybe that new product is beating sales expectations. Maybe it isn’t. Even if the facts aren’t in dispute, there may not be consensus on the next steps for leadership to take. We’re all human. And we all excel at making any set of facts fit our perception of reality, whether true or not. We’ll see what we want to see.

In the US government, we have “checks and balances” that allow a diverse set of voices to forge the (often messy) path forward. May it be so in our own organizations.

Food for thought.

 

Meet Me at Starbucks

What can we learn from Starbucks’ first global ad campaign?

Starbucks Cup with Dallas Name 500

Last week, Starbucks launched its first global ad campaign, “Meet Me at Starbucks”. Shot over a 24-hour period in 40 Starbucks stores across 28 countries, it reminds me of Apple’s “shot around the world in one day” commercial, 1.24.14. The 30-second and 60-second spots cull footage from longer documentaries that you can watch on Starbuck’s special “Meet Me” web site. The ads illuminate the human interactions that occur daily at the “third place” Starbucks creates between our “first place” of home and our “second place” of work.

 

In my recent ASUG presentation, Secrets of a Business Intelligence Barista, I made the case for integrating the Starbucks customer experience into our Business Intelligence Competency Centers.

The business intelligence competency center is a third place between the cubicle and corporate IT that provides a collaborative environment to solve business challenges and align execution to organizational strategy.

I’m a realist- “Meet Me at the Business Intelligence Competency Center” isn’t going to generate the same emotional response that Starbucks has achieved with their new campaign. But I’m also an idealist. Solving business problems with data? That’s something that can be life-changing for the people we serve.

Some of our business intelligence consumers are gregarious. Some are cantankerous. But as you begin your week today, look beyond the crisis of the moment. Look beyond the technology. Take a moment to make the human connection.

What’s your reaction to Starbucks’ new campaign?

9.9.2014

Today is a big day for tech news.

On September 9, 1956, Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. Today, SAP Mentor and my friend and co-worker Greg Myers will appear on a #askSAP webcast for the first time alongside SAP’s Jayne Landry, Ty Miller, and Blair Wheadon. Big news is also expected from Apple and Tableau.

Sounds like a good day to take a long lunch. At a place with great wi-fi bandwidth.

Blackberry (remember them?) isn’t jumping on the September 9th bandwagon, but will have its own See The Bigger Picture event (giant phones?) on September 24.

Land and Expand

Expanding user adoption by learning from the experts.

Land and Expand binoculars and mapMuch has been made of the “land and expand” sales strategies of data discovery vendors Tableau and Qlik. First, “land” a single license of desktop software in the middle of a data-starved organization like accounting. Then “expand” by selling additional desktop licenses to curious co-workers, eventually spreading to multiple departments then roping in IT to adopt a server or cloud-based solution. Beautiful.

But did you know that it’s possible to use a land and expand strategy with your existing enterprise BI solution?

This article won’t help you decide if your organization should invest in data discovery tools. But I hope it will provide inspiration and ideas for extracting additional value from existing investments. Here are some practical ways that your Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) can increase user adoption of existing enterprise business intelligence.

Make it Easy to Get Started

Take a look at the homepages of SAP Lumira, Qlik, and Tableau. Go ahead— take a look. I’ll wait.

Did you see how easy it is to download the software? All three vendors provide a “free download” link in the top right corner of their web sites. You can achieve the same goal by creating or enhancing a BICC portal on your corporate intranet such as Microsoft SharePoint. There are typically two tasks users must accomplish:

  • granting BI platform access to an existing user’s ID
  • installing any client software such as the Web Intelligence Rich Client, Live Office, or Analysis for Microsoft Office

Many organizations have been reluctant to distribute desktop software such as the Web Intelligence Rich Client. But as its name indicates, it is a richer experience (without the annoying Java warnings, too). Whether a software installation is requested by a service ticket or downloaded from a server, be sure to provide easy-to-follow instructions for getting software on your BICC portal.

Give Away Free Samples

The second thing that data discovery vendors do really well is provide sample content. Make sure that all users (for SAP BI, the Everyone group) can access a folder of curated sample content. Ideally, this sample content should use corporate universes but could also use eFashion. Make sure that the samples are generic (don’t reveal sensitive information) and perform quickly by using only small data sets.

Give Away Free Tutorials

Data discovery tools typically feature free tutorials that can be accessed from inside the software itself or from the company web site. But using inexpensive tools such as tools such as Camtasia or ScreenFlow, you can go one step further by creating tutorials that use your organization’s data instead of sample data. SAP has done a fantastic job of describing how to create free tutorials— just look at their Learn BI web site for inspiration.

Your BICC portal should also include one or more pages that list the universes or BEx queries available in the BI platform. In addition to the semantic layer name, include a brief description (cut and paste from the universe parameters), the business user point of contact, the technical point of contact, and directions for requesting access to the information.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the SAP Learn BI site. Don’t be afraid to start small and build out a larger set of tutorials.

Give Away Free Webinars

In addition to static tutorials, hold repeating monthly or quarterly webinars. Check out this tweet from Qlik.

 

You should certainly record webinars and post the “best” one to your BICC portal. But I would encourage you to routinely (perhaps quarterly?) give live webinars because it’s a way to make the human connection with your user community. Their questions will provide valuable insight into how you can continuously improve your training materials, universes, and standard reports. Share presentation responsibilities throughout the BICC giving everyone on the team an opportunity to refine their presentation skills, even if they only handle 5 or 10 minutes of a larger presentation.

Be sure to collect data from your attendees such as name, department, job title and email address. Follow up with a quick email thanking them for their participation.

Reach Out to First-Time Casual Users

If you’ve ever downloaded a free version of a data discovery tool, you’ve seen the vendor’s CRM back-end in action. Via automation and an inside sales force, users who have downloaded the software are periodically contacted, asked if they need help, and reminded of free resources. Being able to cross-reference a user ID to an email address or phone number is key here. New users can also be identified by studying access requests submitted to the help desk.

Know Your Influencers

Desktop data discovery tools succeed not only because they create valuable content, but the person using it becomes a passionate evangelist for the product. In most organizations, these folks are known as “power users” and are sometimes noted as such in the BI security structure. However, just being labeled a power user doesn’t necessarily mean that you are one. Look for users that create and share a large amount of content. Because power users tend to push boundaries, it can also be helpful to look at the number and type of service requests users submit to the help desk.

Monitor Key Metrics and Refine Strategy

In all cases, user activity generates data. Data can be refined into key metrics. And key metrics can be monitored to refine BICC strategy. Look for insight from the SAP BusinessObjects auditor database, usage metrics from your BICC portal, usage metrics from a self-service download site or document management system, and help desk tickets. All of these sources are capable of providing data, but most will need additional additional refinement to reveal insights. Try to budget projects around these untapped data sources as part of your BICC’s annual planning.

Does it take too long to gain access to the enterprise BI platform? Does Brenda take too long to approve access requests? Is installing software a help desk fiasco? Address pain points and continually refine your BICC strategy.

Conclusion

Does your organization need a data discovery tool? Maybe.

Does your organization already own a data discovery tool due to the land-and-expand vigilance of their vendors? Highly likely.

Is there still untapped potential in your existing enterprise business intelligence platform? A distinct possibility.

I hope this article has given you some ideas to tap that latent potential.  Some of these topics are explored in my 2010 ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference presentations, KPIs for Business Intelligence.

What Apple’s new Mac Pro Teaches Us About BI Power Users

Power users may be few in number but large in business impact.

Today, Apple began accepting orders for its latest computer, the Mac Pro. The new Mac Pro was unveiled last summer at Apple’s 2013 World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC). An unusual computer even had an unusual promotional campaign, as Apple released the following WWDC teaser video in movie theaters.

Apple’s computer lines are organized into “consumer” and “professional”, a practice that began in 1996 shortly after Steve Jobs returned to Apple. A product line previously filled with a glut of overlapping offerings was simplified to just four. A consumer desktop and laptop and a professional desktop and laptop. Apple’s product lineup is an acknowledgement that consumers and professionals not only have different budgets, but different requirements as well.

Apple Product Matrix 1997 PocketNow
Image credit: Pocketnow

The new Mac Pro was created as a response to (valid) criticism that the previous model was stale and in need of an update. But at the same time, many pundits have questioned the need for a professional desktop due to the increased capability of the consumer-level iMacs.

A similar distinction exists for business intelligence users, typically organized with the terms like “casual user” and “power user” or “analyst”. As with Apple’s pro users, business intelligence power users are typically a small number of the overall user base. However, by definition, these are the people that are identifying and exploiting new business opportunities for the organization.

Power Users Need Bigger Software

Apple provides Logic Pro for professional musicians but GarageBand for home and amateur musicians. Similarly, it provides Final Cut X for professional movie makers but iMovie for home and amateur movie makers. The products are built around a common core, but the feature set is tailored for each audience.

Power users typically work with larger volumes of data than casual users. That is because they are performing analysis, looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack as opposed to running daily or month-end reports that return smaller data sets.

After years of replacing desktop software with web-based software, the pendulum is once again swinging in the other direction with software vendors providing a new breed of desktop applications known as “data discovery” software such as SAP Lumira, Tableau Desktop, and QlikView.

Regarding older tools such as Web Intelligence, organizations should give their power users with the desktop edition, the Web Intelligence Rich Client. The Rich Client offers a more responsive experience with larger data sets and can interact with local data sources such as Microsoft Excel. Because power users often work in Excel, IT organizations should make available Excel plug-ins such as Live Office or Analysis for Microsoft Office and allow users to discover which data access tool best suits their work habits. And even if you disable certain features of browser-based Web Intelligence for casual users, power users should have unrestricted access to all Web Intelligence features.

Power Users Need Bigger Hardware

Power users also need bigger and better hardware. In many organizations, I’ve seen power users struggle to use underpowered and aging “standard” desktops. Although the new breed of data discovery tools run on 32-bit Windows, power users will have a better experience if they are given fast desktops with 64-bit Windows and larger amounts of RAM (typically 4 GB or more) than the typical desktop worker. Executive sponsors and BI Competency Centers should work with desktop PC support teams to insure a second tier of more powerful desktop machine is available to their power users.

Power Users Need Enhanced Support

Lastly, power users need enhanced support. A customer ordering a Starbucks Triple Grande Skinny Vanilla Latte gets more attention from the barista than a customer that merely orders brewed coffee. Unlike a casual user’s standard routine of daily and monthly tasks, a power user’s “typical day” is often atypical, filled with special projects and short deadlines. These users need a higher level of responsive support than casual users who have fairly routine and predictable use of the BI system.

BI competency centers should be staffed with analysts that have bandwidth to address the needs of power users. In some cases, BI organizations have found that embedding and co-locating BICC staff members with users, especially power users, results in higher productivity and higher customer satisfaction for the BI system.

Conclusion

Just as Apple’s consumer-level iMacs now have performance that satisfies “pro-sumers”, today’s BI tools satisfy the needs of a broader audience than they did 10 years ago. But there will always be power users— users that are always pushing boundaries. And there will always be a need to create experiences— with software, hardware, and customer service— that make them as productive as possible.

The new Apple Mac Pro is breathtaking, both to the eye and to the wallet. But it is a serious computer for demanding users. I predict that in the coming year, the Mac Pro will the de-facto choice for product placement on television shows, movies, and software vendor demonstrations. Next year, Tableau will introduce a new version of Tableau Desktop for Mac OS. Perhaps we will see SAP Lumira on a Mac Pro at next year’s SAPPHIRE?

Video – Making the 2013 Mac Pro

The Teavana Experience

The Teavana Experience is the antithesis of the Starbucks Experience.

Teavana teapot

Last year at the 2012 ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference, I gave a presentation entitled Secrets of a Business Intelligence Barista. In it, I made the case for Business Intelligence Competency Center, or BICC, being as customer-friendly and service-oriented as a neighborhood Starbucks. Just as Starbucks describes their stores as a “third place” between home and work. I shunned the traditional definitions of a Business Intelligence Competency Center and instead described it as follows:

The business intelligence competency center is a third place between the cubicle and corporate IT that provides a collaborative environment to solve business challenges and align execution to organizational strategy.

If you couldn’t tell, I like Starbucks a lot. I visit one at the beginning of nearly every work day. I try to read every article or book I can about their organization (see related book reviews). Early this year, I became a shareholder. So shortly after Starbucks purchased the tea retailer Teavana, my wife and I visited one for the first time.

Sadly, the Teavana experience was the antithesis of the Starbucks experience.

The high-pressure purchasing experience was so miserable, I nearly walked out of the store without purchasing any tea. But curiosity as a shareholder got the best of me, so I let the experience play out. The store employee pushed really hard to sell me way more tea than I wanted as well as an expensive tin to keep it in. When I got home and angrily Googled about the “Teavana Experience,” I found out that my experience was not isolated. I’ve included some links below if you’re interested in reading more.

If only I had Googled before going into the store instead of after. As you can see, I tweeted about my Teavana Experience back in May and it’s taken me a few months to collect my thoughts and relate my Teavana Experience to business intelligence.

Unfortunately, our users can interact with the BICC expecting a “Starbucks Experience” only to walk away with a disappointing “Teavana Experience”. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s look at three ways our BICC team can turn a Teavana Experience back into a Starbucks Experience.

The tea users brew “at home” doesn’t taste like the store samples

At Teavana, there’s never a sample that just contains one variety of tea – it’s always two. And the tea is brewed much stronger in the store than the typical consumer will brew at home. But the result is frequently that a customer cannot replicate the taste of the in-store experience. Similar situations occur in business intelligence when a tool isn’t as easy to use or as flexible as it appeared either during the vendor’s demo. This situation can also occur over time as turnover in the user community erodes the original population of users that received training.

Opportunity: improve user adoption through increased education- both at time of delivery and on a periodic basis such as an internal user group.

Users end up spending more time and money than originally budgeted- and still don’t get what they want

At Teavana, customers who wish to only sample a few ounces of tea are bullied into taking a whole pound. And an expensive tin to keep it in. In my experience, the new trainee that was so helpful showing my wife and I around the store was forbidden to ring us up at the counter. And afterwards, I can see why. He undoubtedly had not yet been brainwashed in the art of increasing the amount of the sale. This sensation can occur with business intelligence projects, particularly when a traditional waterfall design methodology is used. Business users articulate requirements, IT labors over those requirements in near isolation, and the finished product- whether delivered on time or not- doesn’t effectively solve the users’ business problem. Then the finger pointing begins.

Opportunity: Agile methodologies. Beware- going agile can be radical shift both for users and for IT.

Customers are angry after a negative personal encounter with staff

During my first and only Teavana experience, I grew increasingly frustrated at the checkout counter as the Teavana employee kept trying new and innovative ways to increase the amount of the sales transaction. I reached a point where I was ready to halt the purchase and simply walk out of the store. I left the store vowing never to return again. So far, I’ve kept my promise. And I’ve seen no signs from Starbucks that they’ve redesigned the customer experience at Teavana. Instead, the company seems to be focusing on its other acquisitions like La Boulange and Evolution Fresh. Perhaps- like me- the executives at Starbucks have buyers remorse over Teavana.

Opportunity: Train BICC support staff in customer service skills. No budget? Take a team field trip to Starbucks. And as you’re sitting at a table sipping lattes, discuss as a team what makes the Starbucks experience special. Was there an unhappy customer during your visit and how were they treated? There’s many lessons that your team can learn from friendly baristas in green aprons. Include customer service skills in the hiring and review processes.

Coda (9:00 PM on 10/23/2013):

How ironic that the day I finally post this article that Starbucks announces the grand opening of a Teavana tea bar in New York City.

 

Links about The Teavana Experience

Have you had a Teavana experience at your local shopping mall? While interacting with your organization’s business intelligence competency center? Both?